Television

BBC Technical Glitch Leaves TV Presenter In Silence (theguardian.com) 56

Viewers of BBC's News at Ten were entranced last night when a glitch in its system produced over four minutes of surreal beauty. Two readers share a report: Huw Edwards was left sitting in silence for four minutes at the start of BBC News at Ten on Tuesday night after a technical fault delayed the start of the programme and bemused viewers. Viewers on some devices and channels were left watching the presenter sitting in silence as he waited for his cue to start. The BBC News Channel showed Edwards sitting mute for the entirety of the delay, while BBC1 put up a message apologising for the fault and played saxophone music. On BBC iPlayer an announcer apologised for the glitch and breaking news alerts also appeared during the delay. When the programme started at 22:04, Edwards apologised for what he described as a "few technical problems." The presenter said on Wednesday that nobody had told him he was on air until two minutes into the delay. However, Edwards told Radio 4's The Media Show that he "sensed I might be on" so took "the most conservative approach possible" and sat at his desk reading his notes before the bulletin started. BBC hasn't shared more about those "technical glitches." You can watch the clip here.
Businesses

Tesla Is Talking To the Music Labels About Creating Its Own Streaming Service (recode.net) 65

An anonymous reader shares a Recode report: Music industry sources say the carmaker has had talks with all of the major labels about licensing a proprietary music service that would come bundled with its cars, which already come equipped with a high-tech dashboard and internet connectivity. Label sources aren't clear about the full scope of Tesla's ambitions, but believe it is interested in offering multiple tiers of service, starting with a Pandora-like web radio offering. The bigger question: Why doesn't Tesla simply integrate existing services, like Spotify or Apple Music, into all of its cars from the start -- especially since Tesla already does a deal with Spotify for Teslas sold outside the U.S.? "We believe it's important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose," a Tesla spokesperson said. "Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers."
Businesses

Remember When You Called Someone and Heard a Song? (vice.com) 151

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: If you were youngish in the early 2000s, you probably remember this phenomenon -- calling a friend's cell phone, and instead of hearing the the standard ring, you heard a pop song. Called ringback tones, this digital music fad allowed cell phone owners to subject callers to their own musical preference. Ringback tones were incredibly trendy in the early and mid-2000's, but have since tapered off nearly to oblivion. Though almost nobody is buying ringbacks anymore, plenty of people still have them from back in the day. [...] In the process of writing this story, I heard from several people that they or someone they knew still had a ringback tone, in large part because they have had it for years, and don't know how to get rid of it.
Open Source

Opus 1.2 Released 22

jmv writes: The Opus audio codec, used in WebRTC and now included in all major web browsers, gets another major upgrade with the release of version 1.2. This release brings quality improvements to both speech and music, while remaining fully compatible with RFC 6716. There are also optimizations, new options, as well as many bug fixes. This Opus 1.2 demo describes a few of the upgrades that users and implementers will care about the most. It includes audio samples comparing to previous versions of the codec, as well as speed comparisons for x86 and ARM.
Music

Spotify Continues To Grow Faster Than Apple Music Thanks To Free Tier (macrumors.com) 24

Joe Rossignol reports via Mac Rumors: Spotify today announced it now has over 140 million subscribers worldwide, including users that only listen to the free ad-supported tier. Spotify last said it had over 100 million subscribers in June 2016, so it has gained around 40 million listeners in one year to remain the world's largest streaming music service. Spotify didn't update its number of paying subscribers, which stood at over 50 million worldwide as of March 2017. By comparison, Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference last week announced that Apple Music now has 27 million paying subscribers, just weeks before the streaming music service turns two years old. Apple Music doesn't have a free tier, and Apple doesn't regularly disclose how many users are using the free trial.
Censorship

Japan Passes Controversial 'Anti-Conspiracy' Bill (privateinternetaccess.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Virtual Privacy Network Blog, News: Earlier today, after an intentionally rushed consideration process, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passed a new mass surveillance law conveniently called the "anti-conspiracy bill." With the vague wording of the bill, anyone suspected of planning any of [the 277 acts listed in the bill] could be put under targeted surveillance. Of course, the Japanese government has promised not to overstep their boundaries and emphasized that the new law is only meant to increase security before the 2020 Olympics. Among the noted crimes that would be punishable in Japan under the new anti-terrorism law is copyright violation, which is a criminal offense not a civil offense in Japan. Both the Japanese Bar Association and the United Nation's Special Rapporteur have spoken out against the law, saying that it will severely curtail civil liberties in Japan.

BBC laid out some of the most ridiculous things that someone in Japan can now catch a potentially terrorism-related charge for even planning or discussing on social media the acts of: Copying music; Conducting sit-ins to protest against the construction of apartment buildings; Using forged stamps; Competing in a motor boat race without a license; Mushroom picking in conservation forests; Avoiding paying consumption tax. The stated rationale of the government is that these now-illegal acts, such as copying music to CDs or foraging for mushrooms in conservation forests, could be used to fund terrorist activities. Hence, planning or thinking about them is bad. If this sounds like the Thought Police, that's because it is.

Music

Apple Adds Support For FLAC Lossless Audio In iOS 11 (thenextweb.com) 49

Reddit users who have installed copies of the developer beta of iOS 11 are reporting that Apple has finally added support for lossless FLAC audio files in their new mobile operating system. The Next Web reports: The functionality was first spotted on an iPhone 6S Plus running iOS 11 Beta 1 and is reportedly available as part of the newly announced file-management app, Files. Up until now, Apple had deliberately opted to ignore offering playback support for FLAC files in both iTunes and iOS -- though there are numerous third-party apps to do the trick. But it appears things are finally about to change.
Music

Apple Announces Its 'Next Breakthrough' Product: the HomePod (techcrunch.com) 198

Apple unveiled its home speaker during WWDC 2017 on Monday. The device, called HomePod, will go toe-to-toe with existing competitors such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Apple said it wanted to combine good speakers with smart speakers you can talk to, referencing Sonos and Amazon Alexa. It said the speaker "needs to rock the house" free from distortion. It also needs to have "spatial awareness" to make the music sound good no matter the room size. It also needs to be fun to use, Apple said, adding that the HomePod does all of this with a customer's privacy in mind. From a report: The device is a pill-shaped circular speaker. It has 7 beam-forming tweeter array. It has a custom-made woofer and an Apple A8 chip. It has multi-channel echo cancellation, real-time acoustic modeling and more. The HomePod can scan the space around it to optimize audio accordingly. Schiller spent a lot of time talking about how good it sounds. Of course the speaker works well with Apple Music. You can talk to the speaker to play anything in your Apple Music library and more. You can say "play more songs like that," or "I like this song." [...] It's going to cost $349. It comes in white and space grey. It starts shipping in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. Other countries will get HomePods next year.
AI

Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker To Compete Against Google Home, Amazon Echo (bloomberg.com) 70

According to Bloomberg, Apple is manufacturing a Siri-controlled smart speaker that could debut as soon as its annual developer conference in June. "The device will differ from Amazon's Echo and Alphabet's Google Home speakers by offering virtual surround sound technology and deep integration with Apple's product lineup," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Introducing a speaker would serve two main purposes: providing a hub to automate appliances and lights via Apple's HomeKit system, and establishing a bulwark inside the home to lock customers more tightly into Apple's network of services. That would help combat the competitive threat from Google's and Amazon's connected speakers: the Home and Echo mostly don't support services from Apple. Without compatible hardware, users may be more likely to opt for the Echo or Home, and therefore use streaming music offerings such as Spotify, Amazon Prime Music or Google Play rather than Apple Music. Apple hopes that more advanced acoustics technology will give the speaker an edge over competitors, according to people with knowledge of the product's development. Along with generating virtual surround sound, the speakers being tested are louder and reproduce sound more crisply than rival offerings, the people said. Apple has also considered including sensors that measure a room's acoustics and automatically adjust audio levels during use, one of the people said. Apple will also likely let third-party services build products for the speaker. The device will be a hub for Apple's HomeKit home automation system, letting users control devices such as lights, door locks and window blinds.
Android

Essential Home is an Amazon Echo Competitor That 'Puts Privacy First' (theverge.com) 68

In its bid to take on Apple, Google and Amazon, Essential has unveiled "Home," a new intelligent assistant that it hopes owners will be proud to show off. From a report: Essential Home is the new intelligent assistant with round "auto-display" just announced by Andy Rubin's new venture. It can be activated with a question, a tap, or even a "glance," according to Essential, and it's designed to never intrude upon the home. In that way Essential calls it "an entirely new type of product" but it mostly borrows ideas from existing products in an attempt to outdo them. Essential Home lets your control your music, ask general interest questions, set timers, and control your lights -- capabilities we've seen from Google and Amazon -- only Essential promises to do it better, somehow. It's like Google Home or Amazon's Echo series of assistants only without the "boxes, tubes, or strange lights." It's like Nest but it doesn't try to make your home smart by anticipating your needs -- it suggests certain behaviors instead. "In the end people decide," says Essential. Earlier today, the company also announced the Essential Phone. Unlike the Essential Phone, however, much about the Essential Home is not know. It is expected to ship in a few months.
Businesses

For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are the New Composers (npr.org) 171

Reader jader3rd writes: NPR has a story about computer composed soundtracks being used for small video projects.

Ed Newton-Rex, the company's founder, is a composer who studied computer programming, and says he started to ask himself: "Given what we know about how music's put together, why can't computers write music yet?" "You basically make a bunch of choices that really anyone can relate to," Rex says. "That's one of our aims. We wanted to make it as simple as possible, [to] really democratize the process of creation." Despite the successes there's been limited investment, because audiences and producers are uncomfortable with it. "On the credits they don't want to see 'Composed by Computer Program Experiments in Musical Intelligence by David Cope,' " he says. "It's the last thing they want to show their audience."

But how much longer will that last, until audiences are comfortable with seeing that a movies soundtrack was computer composed?


Books

Creative Commons Staff Members Release New Free eBook (creativecommons.org) 27

ChristianVillum writes: Creative Commons staff-members Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey have now published Made With Creative Commons, the awaited book they successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2015. "Made With Creative Commons is a book about sharing," explains the book's description. "It is about sharing textbooks, music, data, art, and more. People, organizations, and businesses all over the world are sharing their work using Creative Commons licenses because they want to encourage the public to reuse their works, to copy them, to modify them... But if they are giving their work away to the public for free, how do they make money?

"This is the question this book sets out to answer. There are 24 in-depth examples of different ways to sustain what you do when you share your work. And there are lessons, about how to make money but also about what sharing really looks like -- why we do it and what it can bring to the economy and the world. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share."

There's free versions in PDF, ePub, and MOBI formats for downloading from the Creative Commons site, and there's also an edit-able version on Google Docs. A small Danish non-profit publisher named Ctrl+Alt+Delete Books is also publishing print copies of the book under a Creative Commons license "to ensure easy sharing," and is making the book available on Amazon or through the publisher's own web site.
Businesses

Music Streaming Service Tidal Loses Third CEO In Two Years (cnet.com) 19

An anonymous reader shares an article: The music-streaming service Tidal is saying goodbye to yet another CEO. Jefffrey Toig, who became the company's CEO in December 2015, is leaving the company. This would make him the third CEO leaving Tidal after two years, following the departure of Andy Chen and Peter Tonstad. In a statement to CNET, Tidal said that it will announce a new CEO in the coming weeks. The Jay-Z-owned music service has relied heavily on star power and album exclusives, but its bet doesn't seem to be making any splashes. On top of that, the company was accused in January of lying about its 3-million subscriber-base. They were accused of creating fake accounts.
The Courts

PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo (billboard.com) 136

PayPal has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pandora, arguing that the company's minimalist logo "dilutes the distinctiveness" of its own branding. "Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful," the lawsuit alleges. Billboard reports: In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole. It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screen grabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. PayPal's lawsuit also points out Pandora's current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it "has no obvious path to profitability," especially given "overwhelming competition" from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely "latched itself on to the increasingly popular" PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes.
China

A Tip for Apple in China: Your Hunger for Revenue May Cost You (wsj.com) 57

Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.
Google

Google Launches Google Assistant On the iPhone (venturebeat.com) 6

At its I/O 2017 developer conference, Google announced the Google Assistant is coming to iOS as a standalone app. Previously, the only way for iOS users to get access to the Assistant was through Allo, the Google messaging app nobody uses. For those interested, you can download the Google Assistant on your iOS device here, but keep in mind that your device needs to be running iOS 9.1 or higher. VentureBeat reports: Google Assistant for iPhone won't ship on Apple's mobile devices by default, and naturally won't be as tightly integrated into the OS. But it is addressable by voice and does work with other Google apps on Apple's platform. Apple has API restrictions on iOS, so Google Assistant can't set alarms like Siri can. It can, however, send iMessages for you or start playing music in third-party apps like Spotify. You also won't be able to use the Home button to trigger Google Assistant, so you'll need to use the app icon or a widget.
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Android

Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.

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